By James KliphuisRadio Netherlands
August 3, 2001
Three senior Bosnian Muslim officers, charged with committing war crimes in central Bosnia in 1993 and 1994, arrived in The Hague on Friday to face the War Crimes Tribunal. The three men, two retired generals and a brigadier still on the active list of the Bosnian Federation Army, were arrested by Bosnian security forces on Thursday in Sarajevo and Sanski Most.
The arrests of the Muslim officers would appear to have been timed to coincide with the sentencing in The Hague, on Thursday, of Bosnian Serb general Radislav Krstic to 46 years imprisonment. It was the first time the War Crimes Tribunal found an accused guilty of genocide.
The arrests in Bosnia could be used to refute Serbian charges of one-sidedness of the Tribunal. However, it is much more likely that the moment the arrests occurred had more to do with the recent visit of Tribunal Chief Prosecutor Carla del Ponte to Sarajevo, in the course of which she handed over an undisclosed number of sealed (secret) indictments to the Bosnian authorities, and with the fact that, since the elections in Bosnia last November, moderate political leaders have been replacing nationalist functionaries in key positions.
The changes at the top in Bosnia culminated in the recent appointment of Zlatko Lagumdzija as prime minister. As leader of the SDP, a multi-ethnic political party, Mr Lagumdzija is an outspoken opponent of the nationalist client-system that paralysed conditions in Bosnia during the years the nationalist SDA was in power. He is committed to fight corruption, to put his country's economy on a sound footing and to work closely with the international community - still omnipresent in Bosnia.
Bad News for Some
That approach seems to have been bad news for some Muslim army officers. One of the three generals detained yesterday, Mehmed Alagic, who had become mayor of the west Bosnian town of Sanski Most after retiring from the army, had already clashed once with the authorities: he was ultimately fired from his post as mayor by the international community's High Representative Carlos Westendorp following charges of corruption.
Sending a Clear Message
The other officers, retired general Enver Hadzihasanovic and Brigadier Amir Kubura (still on active service in the Bosnian Federation Army) must have been unpleasantly surprised when confronted with the sealed indictments of the Hague Tribunal. Even though it was not the first time Bosnian Muslims were indicted (three were sentenced in the Celibici prison camp case), there has been a great deal more publicity surrounding the many Serb and Croat indictees. The fact that high-ranking Muslim officers will now been joining the ranks of Serb and Croat war crimes suspects in The Hague will, if nothing else, make it clear to everybody that it is not true that the Hague Tribunal is only looking to punish Serbs and Croats.
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